Books: Inspirations - Novelist Joseph O'Connor

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The music

Puccini. Bessie Smith. Muddy Waters. The Clash. Bob Dylan. Little Richard. Ruben Gonzlez. Anything sung by Tito Schipa or Andreas Scholl. I love the compression and economy of Irish and English traditional songs, and find it fascinating to hear how, long before modernist writers discovered stream- of-consciousness, interior monologue and shifting points-of-view, these narrative strategies were being used by the anonymous composers of folk songs. A friend of mine always says that any novel that can't be sung as a three minute ballad is probably no good. I think he may well be right.

The play

I love the sparseness and bravery of Beckett's plays, and I have a great affection for King Lear because I studied it for two years in school. But the most powerful experience I've had in the theatre was the 1993 Royal Court production of Brian Friel's masterpiece, Faith Healer, starring Donal McCann in the title role. I still get the shivers when I remember it.

The place

My two favourite places could not be more different, though I am equally at home in either. One is noisy Manhattan, the other is silent Connemara in the west of Ireland. I find the beauty of both breathtaking.

The film

The most inspirational film I've ever seen is also the first film I saw in a cinema - War and Peace by King Vidor and Mario Soldati, starring Audrey Hepburn and Henry Fonda. I was six. I weigh every film I've seen since against that one.

The artwork

Miro, Frank Stella and Stanley Spencer are some of my favourites. I also like the work of John Keane and Peter Howson. Though I am not religious, I love the scrupulousness and clarity of medieval religious icon painting, full of lapis lazuli blue and heavy with gilt. Catholic Gilt, I suppose you could call it.

Joseph O'Connor's novel `The Salesman' is published by Vintage (pounds 5.99)

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